The Flatiron Conversion: Who does City Council stand for?
Yesterday Asheville’s City Council voted to approve the controversial flatiron project. This decision represents a failure of Council to respect the interests and values of their constituents. Community members, local business owners, architects, and members of the preservation society voiced clear opposition to the plan, and numerous people spoke about how decisions like these are pushing them out of the city. But despite these arguments and pleas, City Council chose to support yet another hotel over the clear wishes of Ashevillians.
I have a great deal of respect for all of our current members on City Council, but this is a decision that I simply cannot support. Today, like many in our community I am angry and confused. This decision cuts to the core of who we are as a city. At the hearing, one local resident noted that Asheville needs to ‘accept its destiny as a mountain tourist city.’ To that I offer a resounding “no!” We are not merely a playground for the wealthy, and we need City Council members who are willing to stand up against deceptive and predatory developments to protect the interests of the people who live and work here.
At the meeting, the City Attorney explained the criteria for approval, and for me this proposal failed to meet two of the three criteria: Is it reasonable? And is it in the public interest? The developer made the argument that the proposal was reasonable because the only way to preserve the flatiron building was to convert it into a hotel. As a trained architect, I know this is a false premise. Historic buildings, such as the Grove Arcade, often undergo dramatic renovation for the purpose of preservation, and very few of them are turned into hotels. On the question of whether this is in the public interest, dozens of Ashevillians spoke out against this proposed conversion citing the current glut of hotels under development downtown. I agree with them - there is hardly a need for another. We are at risk of losing the character of our downtown by pushing out local businesses in favor of chasing more tourist dollars.
Last week I officially kicked off my campaign for City Council. I’m running because I want to be a voice for everyday Ashevillians. I work a shift job, and every day I hear from people who can’t find a place to live, who can’t afford rent, or who have moved outside the city and now struggle to get to work because the bus doesn’t run near their homes. These are the clear and present problems facing our people and need to be the constant focus of City Council.
Asheville is facing a crossroads and we need members on City Council who will push for bold solutions for housing, who are willing to pick a fight with Raleigh in order to govern our own elections, and who will stand up against the monied pursuits of hoteliers and tourists to defend the interests and values of local Ashevillians. I promise that, when elected, these are the issues that will guide my deliberations as your voice on City Council.
Kristen Goldsmith, Candidate for Asheville City Council
June 26, 2019